IAN MCKELLEN ON STAGE – with Shakespeare, Tolkien and you!

Various venues - on tour, New Zealand wide

05/05/2012 - 24/06/2012

Production Details

We’re delighted to be amongst the first to tell you about a special event featuring Festival enthusiast Sir Ian McKellen coming to New Zealand audiences soon.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings star is downing his staff and pointy blue hat over the coming weekends to perform a special one-man show in 11 New Zealand centres to raise funds solely to restore Christchurch’s historic Isaac Theatre Royal.  This is sure to be a hit so secure your tickets once they go onsale at 9am tomorrow morning (Friday 13 April).

Sir Ian, currently in New Zealand reprising his Oscar-nominated Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings films, has shown a keen enthusiasm for the arts in this country – read about his 2012 Festival favourites here – and his fondness for the Isaac Theatre Royal, the motivation behind this special event. 

“The last time I was on stage in New Zealand was at the Isaac Theatre Royal in Waiting for Godot,” says Sir Ian. “I love this beautiful old theatre and want to help restore it as soon as possible.” 

Sir Ian will spend his weekends in May and June performing Ian McKellen on Stage at local theatres around the country. He opens in Stratford on Saturday 5 May before heading to Palmerston North, Hamilton, Tauranga, Nelson, Auckland, Christchurch, Wanaka, Hawkes Bay, Wellington and Carterton.

Ian McKellen on Stage is a new show, devised in part by the audience. In this unique fundraiser, you can ask any question at all about Sir Ian’s work and life, as he retraces his journey from the north of England to the West End of London, to Broadway, Hollywood and to Middle Earth. There will be chat, reminiscence, gossip and performances from his Shakespeare and Tolkien repertoire – with maybe a song and a chance to act with him on stage! All income (no hidden costs) will go directly to repair Christchurch’s Isaac Theatre Royal which was badly damaged in the series of 2011 earthquakes and is undergoing recovery. 

In Sir Ian’s words: “Basically it will be a party. Do come!”

Tickets will go on sale at 9am, Friday 13 April 
Prices are $50 adults / $25 students (excl. ticket fees)

Ian McKellen on Stage Schedule

Saturday 5 May 7.30pm: Kings Theatre, Stratford | Book via 06 765 8255

Sunday 6 May 1.00pm: Centrepoint, Palmerston North | Book at Centrepoint  06 354 5740 or  www.centrepoint.co.nz

Saturday 12 May 7.30pm: Clarence St Theatre, Hamilton | Book at Ticketek 0800 TICKETEK (842 538) or www.ticketek.co.nz

Sunday 13 May 2.00pm: Baycourt Theatre, Tauranga | Book at TicketDirect 0800 224 224 or www.ticketdirect.co.nz

Sunday 20 May 2.00pm & 7.30pm: Theatre Royal, Nelson | Book at TicketDirect 0800 224 224 or 03 548 3840 or www.ticketdirect.co.nz

Saturday 26 May 8.00pm: Q, Auckland | Book at Q 09 309 9771 or www.qtheatre.co.nz

Sunday 27 May 2.00pm: Q, Auckland | Book at Q 09 309 9771 or www.qtheatre.co.nz

Saturday 2 June 7.30pm: Aurora Centre, Christchurch | Book at Ticketek 0800 TICKETEK (842 538) or www.ticketek.co.nz

Sunday 3 June 2pm: The Court Theatre, Bernard St, Addington, Christchurch | Book on (03) 9630 870 or online at www.courttheatre.org.nz  

Saturday 9 June 7.30pm: Lake Wanaka Centre | Book by phoning 03 443 4172 or www.festivalofcolour.co.nz

Sunday 10 June 11.00am: Lake Wanaka Centre | Book by phoning 03 443 4172 or www.festivalofcolour.co.nz

Saturday 16 June 2.00pm: Hawkes Bay Opera House, Hastings| Book at Ticketek 0800 TICKETEK (842 538) or www.ticketek.co.nz

Saturday 23 June 7.30pm: Opera House, Wellington | Book at Ticketek 0800 TICKETEK (842 538) or www.ticketek.co.nz

Sunday 24 June 2.00pm: Events Centre, Carterton | Book at Dash Tickets 06 379 4082 or www.dashtickets.co.nz

Harold Pinter Theatre, Panton Street, London, SW1Y 4DN
29 September – 6 October 2019
See: https://seatplan.com/london/ian-mckellen-on-stage/

Theatre , Spoken word , Solo ,

A genial, waggish giant of the theatre

Review by Janet McAllister 28th May 2012

It’s not unusual for the great and the glamorous to be gracious and charming, but it’s rare for them to be genuinely comfortable, warm and genial when conversing with a crowd. Yet Sir Ian was all this at the weekend, and mischievously funny to boot.

His one-man Q&A and recitation show is a mutual love fest between actor and audience. On Saturday, the audience sang him Happy Birthday (a day late for his 72nd); after, he posed for pictures with fans. [More

[Warning: there are quite a few spoilers in this review.]  


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A rare opportunity, not to be missed

Review by John Smythe 07th May 2012

Sir Ian reminds us that “All the world’s a stage” in opening IAN MCKELLEN ON STAGE – with Shakespeare, Tolkien and you! then goes on to connect his world to ours so closely that his two-hour show feels like a cosy chat, albeit peppered with some delectable renderings of classical texts. He even roves in the foyer during the interval, getting to know us ‘up close and personal’.

So why is he doing this fundraising show?

The last New Zealand stage Sir Ian McKellen performed on, before this solo tour, was the Isaac Theatre Royal, in Waiting for Godot (July 2010), just a few months before the earthquakes – of 4th September and 26th December 2010, and 22nd February, 13th June and 23rd December 2011 – which decimated the city of Christchurch. It is one of the few heritage buildings not condemned to demolition. Hence his commitment to seeing it restored.

The theatre’s website states the “repair, restoration and enhancement work required to bring the Isaac Theatre Royal back to full recovery and beyond is estimated to be completed sometime in the first half 2013, with a possibility that the target date could potentially move forward to the early part of 2013 should we suffer no further delays due to this constantly ground-moving slice of history we are currently experiencing!”

“Our Grand Old Lady will undergo an extensive recuperation period,” General Manager Neil Cox stated late last year, “and although most vital repairs are covered by our comprehensive insurance policy, some specific FUNDRAISING will be required to potentially re-strengthen and upgrade/enhance certain areas of the building to achieve Isaac Theatre Royal’s complete restoration and revival. It makes sense to undertake as much work as we can to bring the Theatre back to its highly rated international standards while we have this long period of closure.”

Ian McKellen’s 14 shows in 11 towns or cities is a major and extremely generous contribution to the cause. All the overheads are covered by donations and sponsorship so that every cent spent on tickets, the printed programme, etc, goes directly to the restoration fund.

He is such a warm and friendly presence, the time flies by. Part One, in which he may offer J R R Tolkien and others including William Wordsworth, Gerard Manley Hopkins and his favourite song, also allows ample time for questions from the audience.

His encounters with Sir Edmund Hillary, laced with pithy observations, are sublime while his experience with Ricky Gervais’ Extras – see the YouTube clip – defines the ‘gor blimey’ end of the spectrum.

Those who have read Tolkien’s description of Gandalf, then seen the McKellen version on screen, will be fascinated to learn how that look evolved. His observations on censorship vis-à-vis Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are as amusing as his revelation of how Tolkien ‘found’ Middle Earth is interesting. As a bonus we discover Tolkien was schooled at the same establishment as Frederick Aloysius Weld who wrote Hints to Intending Sheep Farmers in New Zealand before becoming our Prime Minister (1864-65).

Anton Chekhov is another abiding love. Sir Ian has appeared in almost all his plays, and can even lay claim to originating the role of Platonov in an early work that only came to light after the great playwright’s death. Its unwieldy text was adapted by Michael Frayn, entitled Wild Honey, and premiered in 1984, winning McKellen Actor of the Year in a Revival – not that he mentions that detail. We came to hear of the play from a question about the most difficult role he has played, but I’m sure that story can be accessed from a number of directions.

In his programme note, Sir Ian mentions touring his other one-man show, A Knight Out – his “autobiographical chat about acting and activism” – to South Africa, to support the campaign to establish equality for gay people in the new constitution. “I was deputed to lobby President Mandela,” he writes: “If you want to know more, just ask.” The story remained untold yesterday, in Palmerston North. I’d go again just to hear it.

To gain a full appreciation of Sir Ian’s talent, try reading aloud Gerard Manley Hopkins’ The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo, then listen to him speak it trippingly off the tongue. He speaks poetry with a sublimely intelligent voice, full of fun and delight and without a trace of pomposity. So ends the first half.   

Part Two is simply titled WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE in the programme, but expect no arms-length recital. The device for provoking anecdotes and seamless segues in and out of tastes of text is a simple quiz: we are asked to call out the titles of Shakespeare’s plays so that he can tick off all 37 on his list. Thus the order of events, if not the actual choice, is random.

There is a charming story of how he came to find himself playing Tullus Aufidius in Coriolanus. Disinclined to perform bits of roles we can easily see him do on screen, he nevertheless offers Richard Duke of Gloucester, from Henry VI Part 3:

Why, love forswore me in my mother’s womb:
And, for I should not deal in her soft laws,
She did corrupt frail nature with some bribe,
To shrink mine arm up like a wither’d shrub;
To make an envious mountain on my back,
Where sits deformity to mock my body;
To shape my legs of an unequal size;
To disproportion me in every part,
Like to a chaos, or an unlick’d bear-whelp
That carries no impression like the dam.  

– a profoundly insightful speech that is often incorporated into Richard III.

As with all the excerpts he does, there is no sense of ‘performance’, Despite the relative strangeness of the language, he draws us into an intuitive understanding of who he is ‘being’, and how he is feeling and thinking with consummate ease.

There is a sorcery in his voice, too, allowing him to whisper much of Henry V’s “Once more into the breach” and be heard throughout Centrepoint’s medium-sized theatre.

Having played doddery Old Justice Shallow (in Henry IV Part 2) as an undergraduate, he takes the opportunity to revisit him at a more appropriate age – only to confound us by playing both leads in the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet.

Something from Hamlet is inevitable and Sir Ian’s choice this time is “O what a rogue and peasant slave am I” (II, ii), which he mistakenly asserts – if I heard aright – is given the first time Hamlet is alone on stage (which is during I, ii: “O that this too too sullied/solid flesh would melt…)  

From Cymbeline he shares the poem often read at funerals, and relates it to a touching acknowledgement of the lives commemorated on the many war memorials he has seen on his travels around New Zealand:

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Who better than Sir Ian to bring us Richard II’s profound moment of self-awareness, on realising his assumed ‘divine right’ to rule is false and he is subject to the same wants and needs all mortals share? Many will recognise it as “the hollow crown” speech but by skipping interjections in the dialogue he starts it much earlier and ends it much later than the excerpt which opens the John Barton-devised anthology.

Much less known (has it ever been performed in New Zealand?) is a speech attributed to Shakespeare (known to scholars as ‘Hand D’) in Sir Thomas More , regarded as ‘a collaborative play, mostly authored by Anthony Munday. Ian McKellen played the title role in 1964. The speech Sir Ian gives has great currency today in seeking to balance the letter of the law with basic humanity in facing the arrival of refugees.

IAN MCKELLEN ON STAGE – with Shakespeare, Tolkien and you! is as rich in content as it is varied and well worth the $60 ticket price plus $10 for a programme. And the cause, of course, makes even more worthwhile. 

This is a rare opportunity, not to be missed.

Note: Alert anyone you know in Hamilton, Tauranga and Hawkes Bay as bookings are apparently slow in these venues. Elsewhere is booking fast! 


John Smythe July 2nd, 2012

Sir Ian talks to the Wall Street Journal about this show, the Hobbit, being an actor and gay marraige.  http://blogs.wsj.com/scene/2012/06/28/in-conversation-with-ian-mckellen/ 

John Smythe May 8th, 2012

Ah yes, DG - another great speech! This one helped me get into NIDA back in the day:


David Geary May 8th, 2012

Lovely review, made me wish i was there, and reminded me of my woeful ignorance, and Richard II's - "I wasted time and now time wastes me." Want to take the summer off and read shakespeare...as if...thanks. DG

Dan Slevin May 7th, 2012

I was lucky enough to see Wild Honey as a high school student. A brilliant show and I can still recall many details of the staging, as well as McKellen's performance.

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